Palliative Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Quick Summary

Palliative treatment aims to reduce pain and difficult symptoms in peritoneal mesothelioma patients. By raising their overall quality of life, patients can live a full life for longer. Palliative treatment is not the same as end-of-life care. Patients are active while choosing from a wide range of treatment options.

Palliative Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma Overview

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients can consider the following information about palliative treatment:

  • Patients can live better and more comfortable lives for longer
  • Treatments reduce symptoms like abdominal pain and nausea
  • Chemotherapy options aim to stop cancer from spreading further
  • Inpatient and outpatient treatments available
  • Enhancing quality of life may extend patients’ lives

What Is Palliative Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma?

Most peritoneal mesothelioma patients begin with palliative treatment. This is because few patients are diagnosed early. In fact, there is no standard staging system for peritoneal mesothelioma.

The therapies considered “curative” by physicians are also offered to palliative patients with less aggressive scopes.

Patients who receive palliative treatment are still living active and independent lives. Palliative treatment is not end-of-life care. Instead, the goal of palliative treatment is to enhance your overall quality of life. Decreased pain and fewer symptoms allow patients to perform many of their pre-diagnosis abilities.

Palliative Care Update

Palliative treatment does not change your prognosis. However, studies have shown that living happier and in greater comfort after diagnosis can extend patients’ lives.

Goals of Palliative Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients can benefit from a broad range of palliative treatments. The primary goals serve to reduce abdominal pain and other related symptoms like upset stomach. By alleviating these symptoms, patients can continue living a better life for as long as possible.

Relieving Abdominal Pain

An essential goal of palliative treatment for peritoneal mesothelioma is to reduce stomach pain.

Depending on your specific case, you may be eligible for chemotherapy or surgical procedures that shrink and remove tumors. Over-the-counter and prescription medications are available to ease pain. Complementary treatment options can also benefit patients.

Massage therapy and acupuncture have shown to reduce pain when used alongside other treatments.

Alleviate Digestive and Other Symptoms

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients suffer from a wide range of symptoms. Many of these issues relate to the digestive system. Nausea, vomiting, constipation, lack of appetite and other problems make it difficult for patients to live a full life.

Patients can opt for procedures to clear bowel obstructions and drain abdominal fluid buildup (ascites).

Options for these procedures depend on the patient’s overall health. Natural treatments like specialized diets and vitamin supplements help subdue nausea and other digestive problems.

Enhance Quality of Life

Palliative treatment restores some control in your life. You determine with your doctor which types and levels of treatment are best for you. The overall goal of treatment is to allow you to return to most of your pre-diagnosis abilities. Feeling better means spending time doing the things you enjoy with your loved ones.

Palliative treatment options also comfort mental, emotional and spiritual pain. Therapies help patients and families cope with a mesothelioma diagnosis and the psychological difficulties that arise.

What Treatments Are Right for Your Peritoneal Mesothelioma Diagnosis?

Mesothelioma is a complex disease requiring specialized treatments. The Mesothelioma Help Guide helps patients understand their diagnosis and get the best treatments to improve prognosis.

Request Your Free Mesothelioma Help Guide Now

Palliative Treatment Options for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Peritoneal mesothelioma patients have numerous palliative treatment options available to them. Options range from in-patient surgeries for tumor removal to medications for abdominal pain. Some therapies are more intensive and require patients to meet specific health criteria.

Discuss the following treatments with your doctor to determine which ones may be beneficial.


Debulking surgery (also called cytoreduction) is an in-hospital operation performed under general anesthesia. Surgeons remove the peritoneum (the abdominal lining) and search the abdominal cavity for any visible tumors to remove. They may also resect small portions of some organs and non-essential organs like the appendix.

Cytoreduction surgery eases pain and digestive issues for some patients.

However, it is an extensive surgery that often takes over 10 hours to complete. Patients must be healthy and strong enough to withstand the operation and the recovery to follow. Debulking surgery is paired with heated chemotherapy for best results (read below).


The most common and successful chemotherapy for peritoneal mesothelioma is a heated treatment called HIPEC (hyperthermic intraoperative chemotherapy). It’s applied directly to the abdominal cavity during cytoreduction after tumor debulking is complete. The heated solution bathes the cavity, shrinking tumors and killing cancer cells.

Peritoneal Chemotherapy Update

For patients who are unable to undergo debulking surgery, chemotherapy drugs can instead be inserted into the abdomen through a small catheter. Doctors can also administer chemotherapy treatment by IV through your bloodstream.

Chemotherapy usually has side effects, varying in severity depending on the treatment course and your individual health. Common side effects include nausea, fatigue and hair loss. Digestive issues like appetite loss, constipation or diarrhea are more common for peritoneal mesothelioma patients.

Fluid Build-up Drainage

Many patients with peritoneal mesothelioma experience excess fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity. This is also called peritoneal ascites or peritoneal effusion. Cancer cells inflame the abdomen and cause fluid to collect. The abdomen swells and creates discomfort or pain for the patient.

Excess abdominal fluid can be drained using a catheter inserted in your abdomen—a procedure called paracentesis.

The fluid is then removed through a tube and collects in a bag. Paracentesis happens quickly with a short recovery time. Only local anesthetic is necessary and the procedure does not require a hospital stay.


Radiation therapy is less useful for peritoneal mesothelioma than it is for cancers in other areas of the body. Radiation is harmful to abdominal organs, so the disadvantages usually outweigh the benefits. Most patients choose chemotherapy instead to shrink tumors.

Some patients with advanced peritoneal mesothelioma opt for radiation despite the harm to nearby organs. Surgery or incisions are not necessary.

If you are considering radiation therapy, discuss the potential benefits and risks with your specialist.

Find the Right Specialist for Your Diagnosis

Peritoneal mesothelioma doctors across the country are accepting new mesothelioma patients now. Our Doctor Match Program connects you with a nearby specialist.

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Bowel Obstruction

Bowel obstruction is a common occurrence in peritoneal mesothelioma patients. Obstruction happens when tumors grow large enough to compress the intestines.

Medication or an electrolyte solution can clear some blockages.

As a next step, a tube is inserted through the nose or rectum to relieve pressure. As a last resort, surgery is used to unblock the obstruction.

Pain and Symptom Management

Several options are available to reduce the pain and discomfort associated with peritoneal mesothelioma. Your mesothelioma specialist may prescribe painkillers and other medications to help ease symptoms.

Doctors might also recommend taking over-the-counter drugs or vitamins.

Clinical Trials

Physicians and researchers continually run clinical trials to test new drugs and procedures. Trials are normally operated out of cancer centers or large hospitals around the country. There are several clinical trials for peritoneal mesothelioma currently recruiting new patients or will be soon.

For example, one trial is testing the effectiveness of a new drug combination with patients who have advanced peritoneal mesothelioma. Contact your mesothelioma specialist to learn more about clinical trials underway in your region.

Seeking Palliative Treatment for Peritoneal Mesothelioma

Patients with peritoneal mesothelioma have many options when considering palliative treatment. Reducing pain, easing nausea or alleviating depression can all enhance your quality of life.

To be put in touch with a peritoneal mesothelioma specialist or to learn more about palliative care options, contact a Patient Advocate today. Call us at (800) 584-4151 or register for our FREE Doctor Match Program to get connected with a top peritoneal mesothelioma specialist near you.

View Author and Sources

  1. Canadian Journal of Surgery, “Peritoneal mesothelioma: current understanding and management.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 31, 2018.
  2. Cancer Research UK, “Treatment Decisions for Peritoneal Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 31, 2018.
  3., “Search of: Peritoneal Mesothelioma | Recruiting; Not yet recruiting.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 31, 2018.
  4. Respiratory Medicine CME, “Peritoneal mesothelioma: a case report.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 31, 2018.
  5. Sugarbaker Oncology Associates, “Specialty Section for the Treatment of Peritoneal Mesothelioma.” Retrieved from: Accessed on May 31, 2018.

Last modified: October 24, 2018